Covenant House campaign homeless for the holidays

Toronto's Covenant House decided to pull its holiday advertising effort early this year due to backlash from sensitive Torontonians.

Toronto’s Covenant House decided to pull its holiday advertising effort early this year due to backlash from sensitive Torontonians.

The campaign, which was developed by Taxi, used creative depicting a young homeless girl with an assortment of unsavoury adults, representing the typical predators that target street kids.

‘We wanted to educate the public on a different aspect of youth homelessness,’ says Josie do Rego, director of development and communications at Covenant House. ‘It’s basically talking about the fact that if kids are having problems at home and they run to the street they are going to be picked up by a new kind of ‘family.”

The ads started to appear in magazines and on digital signage and transit ads throughout Toronto in November. Covenant House began to hear feedback that the creative was unsympathetic and negative towards adult homelessness. Thus, Covenant House pulled the ads early in December.

‘It had nothing to do with the number of comments – we actually received more positive comments than negative,’ explains do Rego. ‘It was that this particular concern did not align with who we are, and so we felt very strongly that that’s not what we wanted people to see.’

The ‘Street Family’ campaign was replaced by creative work from Covenant House’s corporate ‘No Kids Plan to be on the Street’ campaign, which rolled out last January and was originally set to resume following the holidays.